Artist Interview With Ryan Walker by Victor Zarazua
I met Ryan back in the early 00’s at the old art silos back then it was the lowend of Blue Star for the youth and artist’s who weren’t just there yet. Through the years, Ryan and I have kept in contact and I’ve watched him grow as an artist & person. I reached out to him to see if he could maybe put a perspective on the current landscape we are all now subject to. As most artist are somewhat introverts, quiet, and who can tend to remain calm during tough times, Ryan’s approach may be just what we all need.
First things first: What's your name and how old are you and where are you from?
Ryan Walker, 42 years of age from the beginning to now.
Ryan! Right now what are you doing?
Staring at the fish in my friends obscenely large fish tank. It’s against a beige wall and the lighting is warm. I was bummed when I realized what I thought was a big fish was actually a vase on it’s side. I just thought it was a mellow fish compared to the others. Bummer high.
Can you tell me more about the art world you come from?
Sure. I was on the bus to school and this older kid who wore a denim jacket sat with me. He saw the scrawling of a concert stage I did on my book cover. He showed me how to draw the Twisted Sister logo then offered me a cigarette. I didn’t take it because I didn’t smoke yet. Being in first grade, I didn’t need a habit. He was cool till I saw him sitting in the office. He did that fist to palm motion and glared at me. I was quick to realize he wanted to beat me up. Someone snitched on his smokes!? Never saw him after that. That story also parallels my first trip to Art Basel Miami.
What type of artwork do you do, mediums?
I do artwork that’s for sale (*wink). Often bright and sometimes the taste is questionable. Typography/Design conversions. If it has pigment and will stick or stain, I’m good to go.
Enamel, acrylics, aerosol, wax, mustard. Situational commentary is my “theme”.
So a while back we were talking and you showed me a book project. If you can, could you tell us about it?
Yeah! “In The Grout” was proudly released at the Paris Book Fair in 2018 at the Cave Homo booth. It’s my compendium of Men’s restroom photographs from all over the world showing the sexual desperation that predates the convenience of internet dating.
When a grown man scratches into a bathroom stall with a key that they “ Want to ______ your______ and _____ with you and you’re _____ is going to love it,” sounds pretty serious to me. If you show up at the time/date location specified... you better be “down to clown”. Because that aggro horny dude is going to be there waiting. Who knows what’s going to happen if you have a change of heart (or whatever body part) that says no. Crass, filthily hilarious to some while sad all at once.
That’s what I put together with the help of LD Begthol (Nice Boys From Good Families.) and Luke Williams (@cavehomo). Thanks for the assist, fellas!
What does your world look like at the moment, are you working on things or relaxing?
I’m working on custom painted signs for an RV/AirBnB park in Bastrop Texas. It’s more math than it is expressive but just pulling the solid lines with a squirrel hair brush is incredibly cathartic. I’m fortunate to have this.
What is your first experience in the artworld that had a profound effect on you ?
In 1997 I called Blk/Mkt in San Diego after reading a write up on them in a skate mag. I asked for Shepard and they said “sure hold on”. I shot the breeze with him over markers and what to use for stencils etc. He asked for my address and a box showed up a few days later with chingo OBEY stickers, machine cut stencils of Andre the Giants face. HUGE Xerox’d posters of Andre the Giant has a posse and a note on making the wheat paste. BOOM! Game On! I hit the streets.
I always think artists do need extra hobbies, do you have any hobbies?
Yeah, it’s important to do other enriching activities. I like to leave skateboard decks in trees of subdivisions where getting a “newer” board isn’t financially possible. Same with sets of wheels or hardly worn skate shoes. I’ll take a pic and post it on Instagram saying “free” or tie a note to the shoes saying “free to new kickflips”. Trash to treasure.
More recently I’ve been recording *music again. Visual work felt like production at any rate so I needed to make some new noise. Coffee as a hobby. Using the word “Girl” as a verb (thanks Fonda Cox). Traveling to exotic cities that offer legal medicines not available in Texas to really “mellow out”.
How has this virus changed your daily movements?
Vic, my 13 yr relationship came to an end just as Covid-19 reached the states. My decision to buy a camper and mosey along the highway till I found a new place to settle has been brought to an abrupt halt. So for me, EVERYTHING is new/different. I’ve none of the daily rituals I previously had and wrapping my head around my situation along with the situation of the world has been eye opening, heart breaking and breath taking. I’m fortunate to wake up... to put on my gloves and mask to help keep me from dying. That’s made it a challenge for me to be creative in a positive light, but I’m working on it.
I’ve written a lot a cuss words lately for many different reasons, lol. Some are aesthetically pleasing while others look “angry”. C’est la vie, no?
Currently I’m on acreage that shares a fence with a State Park. Surrounded by dense pink trees, I’ve gone many days without seeing other people which I like but is probably not the best scenario for some people right now. I take my antidepressants and mood stabilizers along with the uppers and downers my psych Dr. deems necessary. Honestly, everyday is like Halloween. Full of a variety of tricks or treats. Making the best of it while dodging death cooties.
Anything you would like to share with us, anything you want to mention?
Yes I do.
We can and must be good to one another. Pay a surprise compliment that gives a stranger a smile. Take time to invest in yourself and what you need to be happy and healthy for as long as you can. Educate and be willing to learn something from another’s viewpoint. Love yourself to not take abuse from a family member, the media, your children or elders. The world’s tough but it can be more beautiful than you ever imagined.
What's on the agenda next as far as projects etc?
I’m currently working on project “Me”. We’ll see how it turns out. I’d enjoy collaborating with public spaces more (Permission walls). It’s me and what I can fit in a Teardrop camper facing the world for now. My brushes and some 1shot Enamel.
Do you have a playlist you go to when working, or what music do you tend to listen to?
Bomb ass question! My music machine shows I’ve listened to Lightning Bolt (discography), MF Doom and Show Me the Body on repeat heavily since January. I tend to listen to Burning Witch while making snacks.
If I’m forgetting something just add it here feel free to keep going.
Here’s some random notes I’ll share with the readers-
I’m not a gamer however, pinball is where it’s at.
“You used my bread pan FOR A CAKE?”.
THAT’S A CAKE!
NO, EVERYTHING IS HALF EQUAL.
I tried videoing but too dark. Gun shot . Got in camper lights off and locked in waited a few min to get out and walk up to street level. Police SUV was in church parking lot with two other cars. Police lights are on the fritz.
-I know that means hot because its on the side of Top Ramen. That’s hot. Cali Intay - grocery store kid
-Why can’t you just stay home? Nothing happens to you when you just stay home. - chick to beau
-Sometimes I think it but I don’t word it out of my head.
Little girl leaving restaurant
I’ll be in the front row
Big pocket full of No
tiny brain full of know
Thanks for having me, Victor.
Artist Interview With Mary Agnes Rodriguez by Victor Zarazua
I heard of this Artist, Mary Agnes Rodriguez, who had been creating incredible murals and mosaic pieces around the West Side. Then a few years ago I was able to meet this passionate artist. Mary set some time aside for a quick interview with us. Enjoy!
Hey, Mary, first & foremost thank you for taking the time to do this and I hope you are doing well and I know you are keeping busy. Some artists should look at how you are able to stay focused on creating during this crisis. So, how is life now during this coronavirus lock-down?
Life has changed. We are witnessing history through a novel #Coronavirus pandemic #Global
How long have you been an artist now, and what motivated you to become a full-time artist?
I have been for many years, about 48 years. At a young age, I remember I doodled a lot. But in my later years, I became drawn more to it. It's kind of a struggle to get hired at ad companies if you don't have that much experience but I'm self-motivated. So I created my own job and put my work out there.
As an Artist can you explain how the world looks from your perspective?
I see beauty in everything whether its a brown dry leaf falling to the ground whereas other people see it as trash. My perspective is through observations.
Did you go to any type of Art School or are you pretty much self taught?
Yes, I did study at an Art school, also I went to workshops at non-profits. Even tutorials. Trying to keep current with things. One never stops learning. The world is a huge one, we are just a mere tiny spot on this planet.
What are your first memories of SACA and how did you get involved ?
My first memories of SACA are when I first saw and picked up an issue of El Placazo at my cousin Cathy Garcia’s business in Southdown. Called Alamo Street Garden which now is known as Tito's. So like I said I picked up an issue of the community newspaper. I found it interesting and more so there was a masthead contest. So I submitted 4 designs to San Anto Cultural Arts. And they selected one of the designs. But I never did go to check out San Anto Cultural Arts. But kept submitting artwork to be published. It wasn’t until my cousin closed her business in '99. I received a letter inviting me in Jan to attend a community mural meeting. That is how I became involved in SACA.
How important is public art to you?
Our art has power. Art can heal. Art can save lives and can bring us together even while we are apart. It helps us through the storm. Public art can empower and build our communities. To bring awareness, prevention, protection as well as beauty, history, cultural, traditions and keeping it alive. By the people. It's like a museum and it's free to the public. It's important to have local community artists because they know their city and their community.
What other Non-Profits do you work with?
I've worked with San Anto Cultural Arts, the National Association Latino Arts and Cultural, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, MujerArtes Clay Studio de Esperanza, and the Alamo City Community Marching Band/Concert.
Are you planning on having a solo show after all this is over?
Hopefully, yes, God willing. Meantime I can produce a body of work while quarantined.
Do you have any book recommendations or documentaries you would like to share?
Before the quarantine. A friend mentioned to me a book called Red and Black Ink. Don't remember the author. But she said it was a good book as a reference. It's a book on the codexes. Which I find very interesting. And use some glyphs and symbols etc. Keeping culture alive by using them.
What other hobbies do you have?
I enjoy being out in the yard with nature. Bird watching and feeding. Practicing my clarinet.
What hidden gems can you tell us about in San Antonio?
I think it's awesome to have a theater right in the middle of the neighborhood. And to know who has performed there throughout the years and present. They need our support and attend their events whenever possible.Or by being a monthly donor. Because when something happens, the first thing they do is cut the Arts. Which in my opinion should be on top in the list. The artists, performers, spoken word, dance, make the city with their services. And also to collaborate with other non-profit orgs. To build stronger communities.
What has been your favorite project you have been able to work on at SACA?
I enjoyed working on both the community newspaper and murals and when they had video workshops.
Do you have any stories about Manny Castillo, co-founder of SACA, you would like to share?
I remember my first mural project and we were doing a presentation. Manny was introducing me saying a little bit about how I would submit artwork to the newspaper but never went to SACA.
Do you have any advice for young artist’s who are thinking about becoming a full-time Artist?
It's not easy. You have your ups and downs. You get criticized. But don't let that discourage you. If you feel really strong about it, do it! Are you self-motivated? Determined. Passionate. Be involved in your community. Put your work out. Study what other seasoned artists are doing, not copying but creating something that fits you and your art. . Go to workshops, Art school, tutorials. Enter in contests, volunteer in organizations that might be interested in your work. Be original!
Thank you so much, Mary!
When I heard about my university's vague plans for post-spring break given Covid-19, they already let us leave and over half of us returned home. Just before spring break ended, the seventh email came, telling us not to return to housing and threatened students who wanted to retrieve their belongings with disciplinary action. So, I sat there wondering how I would finish almost half the semester with none of my art supplies and teetering on the edge of my almost full-ride scholarship’s grade requirement. My works in progress hung on the wall of a studio that was shutting in 24 hours and I could not physically retrieve anything.
Many of my peers brought home their small-scale pieces by plane or were local, but my pieces were around 7 foot large, almost no way to ship that to my home in Texas, unless crated for hundreds of dollars-- each. So, I made a rash decision to finish what I started the best way I could. I just couldn’t take the uncertainty of losing a year’s worth of artwork my junior year when I need to be applying to almost everything.
My art supplies made it to Texas after what may or may not have been a 4-day road trip. Thankfully, as a double major and introvert at USC, quarantine is like my regular lifestyle. Apart from spending all my time in the studio, I mostly stayed home, researching, painting, and scribbling away. I do the same here in San Antonio unless I’m called on for projects at San Anto.
This past year, I’d been working on a body of work that paid homage to my cultural background, their folklore/mythology, and ecology. I paint large-scale portrayals of them, tying together narrative, ritual, and social-justice issues into a portrait. I often use these deities metaphorically to convey the waning state of another subject in the artwork such as a process, tradition, or even species in the environment.
One of my older pieces that I revisited in quarantine was a portrait of Guatuba (Figure 4), a Taino/Puerto Rican deity of the rain, wind and lightning in front of a storm. One that is closer to the theme of endangered practices is for instance, Figure 3, a draft for a larger series that is depicting my memory of learning the processing of the cacao bean with my family in Puerto Rico. Manufacturing has made this style of hands-on processing less common.
The second series in process takes a similar approach, thinking about agave and pulque (an Aztec alcohol) processing through the lens of its soon to be dutyless deity, Mayahuel (Figure 1 and 2), if traditional pulque processing ceases. The other deity (Figure 1) is Piltzintecuhtli, the god of hallucinogenic plants, visions and healing. He again is depicted in a forlorn light, since hallucinogenic plants tend to be illegal to grow in places and he now has little to no responsibility, overseeing or healing with outlawed substances.